Dehesa, el bosque del lince ibérico (2020) - full transcript

A documentary about a unique type of forest, the "dehesa" of the Iberian Peninsula, a world in which to discover unique sensations.

In a time now past,
most Iberian forests looked like this.

Even today, in some mountain ranges
in the south of the peninsula,

remains of those thick jungles grow,
enveloped in dense mists.

But as a result of tenacious
human action, of the use of livestock,

a new landscape grew up.

FOREST OF THE IBERIAN LYNX

Spread out forests
of holm oaks and cork oaks,

exclusive to the Iberian peninsula,

with an appearance and an activity

similar to that
of the African savannahs,

where flocks
of domestic livestock



carry out the role
of the great herds of wild ungulates.

A unique ecosystem,

the result of the sum
of nature and human activity.

An old contract of mutual interest,

in which the forest is not harmed.

And where a large community of predators
search for their food.

The axe, the plow and the teeth
of livestock opened these forests.

But the thick
surrounding vegetation

hides some of the most valuable species
in the Mediterranean forests.

An Iberian lynx,

an animal whose sole presence
dignifies the place where it lives.

The rolling terrain of the dehesa,

with soft ground, scattered trees
and abundant undergrowth,

is the ideal habitat
for mountain rabbits.



At the same time,

the weight of sustaining
all this ecosystem falls on them.

Between raptors
and earthbound carnivores,

up to thirty species of predators
have specialized in hunting them.

Pursued, harassed on the ground
and from the air,

rabbits have
the weapon of the humble:

a high birth rate.

A cavity excavated underground
shelters the litters.

Dry and comfortable,

it is lined with grasses
and the soft fur from the mother's belly.

The baby rabbits,
separated from the communal warren

and far from prying eyes,

are shut away during the day
behind a door of earth.

Hungry, just a few days old,

the baby rabbits have to grow quickly.

They will soon leave the protection
of their rabbit hole.

The mother, prolific,
will get pregnant time and again,

up to four or five times a year.

More than twenty siblings
will join the family.

Rabbits are the basis of the dehesa.

But at times it seems that the dehesa
is falling down on their heads.

A herd of fighting bulls
move across their domain.

Descendents, like all breeds of cattle,
of the aurochs,

these animals have been selected
not for their physical characteristics,

but for their aggressive,
resistant behavior.

Life in the herd
follows a strict hierarchical order.

There are constant quarrels.

The dominant male

scratches to intimidate the others.

In their fights,

these bulls only know how to charge
head on, with their forehead,

without duplicity or cunning.

No other animal
charges with such force.

The collision
of two enraged masses of 500 kilos

shakes the dehesa
to its foundations.

Built as water reserves
for the summer months,

the pools
open the forests to other inhabitants.

An otter,

a mammal that abandoned dry land
to hunt in the water.

Agile on the ground,
otters have evolved for aquatic life.

With their eyes and nose
at the edge of their flat heads,

they can look out at water level
and keep their waterline low.

Immersions are continuous.

Capable of holding their breath
for three or four minutes,

they rarely dive
without obtaining results.

The latest rains bring good news.

On the rocky slopes
that surround the dehesa,

new eyes open to life.

Born a few weeks ago,

these two Iberian lynx cubs

look out on the exterior
for the first time.

They have just opened their eyes,

still blue
from lack of exposure to the sun,

and curiosity leads them
to the mouth of the den.

But they've chosen a bad moment.

Nothing bothers a cat
more than a downpour.

Even so, they prefer to get wet
rather than go back to the darkness,

and the mother moves away a few meters
so that her young,

feeling themselves alone,
look for shelter under the rocks.

The mother won't go very far.

The cubs are out of sight now
and at this age they are very vulnerable.

At last it stops raining.

The cat comes back
to check on things.

No one at the mouth of the den.

The mother calls with a yelp
and the two cubs come out again.

Then there begins a ceremony
of licks, games and fights:

the daily ritual
of any family of cats.

Considered the most threatened
felines on the planet,

the Iberian lynxes
were close to extinction.

There was barely
a hundred of them left,

prowling freely
through the woodlands.

But, for once,
action was taken in time,

with a very efficient
conservation plan

over the course of several years
and, as a result,

new litters
are increasingly frequent.

The days grow longer

and the sunlight turns into colors
and sounds on the floor of the dehesa.

In the fields of poppies,

on the plains of hedge mustard,

the buzzing of pollinating bees
creates a vibrant background of sounds.

Even on the plains,

animals always
look for the shortest routes.

If the landscape tells a story,

the marks traced on the ground
by the hooves of ruminants

are its lines of text.

Turquoise in a world of liquid crystal.

A kingfisher harpoons the waters.

The kingfisher's entire body
is a prolongation of its long beak.

A hydrodynamic design
that is perfect for diving.

The kingfisher
always patrols in crystalline rivers

shut away between slopes
and with fallen trunks

from which to look down
on the current.

From his vantage point
nothing can hide from him.

"Pardillas", and other small fish

fall under his viewing angle.

The kingfisher
can also compensate

for the apparent deviation
of the image underwater

due to the refraction of light

with absolute precision.

The fine season advances

and in the shadier areas
the purple red of the peonies

stands out against the subdued
green tones of the undergrowth.

The smell
rather than the color of the peonies

attracts pollinating beetles which,
completely covered in pollen,

will scatter the future of these
flowers throughout the dehesa.

For many species,
the dehesa is only a hunting ground,

a roaming area

where it is easier to seek out
and pursue their prey.

But to breed
they choose more protected places,

steep slopes, inaccessible rocks.

A pair of Bonelli's eagles
tend to their nest.

Of all the great Iberian eagles,

the Bonelli's eagles are the wildest,

the ones that live
in the steepest places.

Sedentary, they are closely linked
to the most hidden ledges,

where they easily find platforms
that are difficult to access.

Perched in his castle,

the Bonelli's eagle doesn't always
have to fly far to find food.

From up here

the call of the red-legged partridges
can be heard clearly.

The eagle constantly
patrols his hunting territory.

He is accustomed
to flying close to the peaks,

watching both sides.

He glides down the slope,
he avoids the crags.

He searches for the surprise

and is always ready to swoop down
on any animal he catches off-guard.

In this case,

the partridge hasn't realized
what is bearing down on it.

Some of its feathers
fly for the last time.

On their hunting trips,

these eagles show us
what a good neighborhood should be.

The still waters of the River Douro,
boxed in between cliffs,

mark a border
between two countries,

but not the limits
of the eagle's territory.

The Bonelli's eagle
hunts on the Portuguese side,

and every day
crosses the line

to feed his chicks
on the Spanish side.

There are no borders in nature.

The black and white wingbeat
of the hoopoe

stands out
against the floral carpet.

With such wide wings,
there is total wing control.

Because of its morphology,

the hoopoe isn't prepared
for perching on a vertical trunk,

so it has to make a real effort
to introduce its beak,

fine as a needle,
into the chick's throat.

On the sunnier slopes,
on stirred up ground,

these plants
with violet flowers grow.

Perhaps because
of their sinuous growth,

they are known
as viper's bugloss.

In the fields of dandelions,

it isn't that flowers
that present a danger.

That is the function
of the little crab spider,

hidden by the colors
of its surroundings.

In this case, yellow,

although it can vary
depending on the floral palette.

As if hidden behind a veil,
the spider is invisible to its enemies.

The disproportionate size
of its front legs,

the reason
for the comparison with crabs,

allows it to trap
proportionately enormous prey.

Functionally,
the crab spider is a trap.

In the sensorial world of insects,

bathed by ultraviolet light,

the arachnid is no more than
a vague form on a field of flowers.

The hunger of one
and the patience of the other

make the encounter inevitable.

The hunter doesn't spin a web,

but it cultivates patience and
the technique of lying and waiting.

For long hours if necessary,
before the deadly embrace.

The spider closes
its legs over the prisoner

and injects its venom.

The season advances

and the yellow flowers
turn into thistledown,

filaments that float
on the slightest breath of wind.

The tranquility is only apparent.

The cries
from the birds in the forest

indicate that something
is going to happen.

But this rabbit seems to be
the only one who hasn't realized.

The hour of the lynx begins.

Concealed
by the patches on his fur,

the lynx blends in
with the chiaroscuro of the forest.

A thicket of grasses
comes between the hunter and his prey.

There can be no visual contact,

but the lynx's hearing guides him
with the same precision as his sight.

His figure becomes blurred,

beard erect,

ears pointed forward

but with the crests flattened.

Not a hair of the cat
protrudes above the grasses.

At four or five meters,
the distance of a leap,

the attack is deadly.

For the rabbit, noise is its downfall.

The rabbit's shrieks serve to warn
its whole community of the danger.

Too late.

Everyone in the forest already knew it.

Except, perhaps, the main protagonist.

A cruel spectacle.

Large insects and tiny rodents,
all skewered,

impaled like the victims
of a sinister Transylvanian count.

A southern grey shrike
watches from a high perch.

From their appearance,
shrikes seem like little raptors,

the featherweights among birds of prey.

The hooked beak
and its hunting techniques vouch to that.

But there is something missing
in its killing equipment:

strong claws to grasp and tear.

That is why they use tools
such as the barbs on thorn bushes

like a butcher's block.

All of the shrike's life
takes place among barbs.

Even in the nest,

hidden behind the prickly barrier
of a holm oak's needles.

A ladder snake
scours its hunting territory.

The distant cheeping
of the hungry chicks betrays them.

And although the ophidian's hearing
isn't particularly fine,

the shrike reacts in alarm.

But first, a bit of silence.

Given the proximity
of the snake,

a specific cry and something
like a thump on the ground

alerts the chicks
so that they hide and keep quiet.

Facing the danger alone,
the shrike defies the snake,

it exposes itself, it provokes it
to distract its attention.

The alarm is over.

A hoarse clamor emerges
from the surface of the water.

The Iberian water frogs are in heat.

Born exhibitionists,

the males use a trick
to appear more than they are.

By inflating its gular sac

its simple voice echoes
and becomes a hoarse,

broken, defiant croak.

At times the confrontation
ends in a fist fight.

Or rather, a leg fight.

A black stork
wades through the shallow waters

and puts an end to the argument.

With its craw laden,
the stork heads for its nest.

Everything in the black stork
is like the negative of its white relative.

Very scarce,
it flees humanized areas

and it has adapted
so faithfully to its last refuges,

the Mediterranean forests,
that it has become a symbol.

And unlike the white stork,

the black stork is evasive,
almost hermit-like.

Monogamous for life,

the pair usually nest
on river ledges.

The rock face is their wall,
the water, their protective moat.

When feeding,

the storks don't show preference
for any of the chicks which,

gathered in a circle,
fish in the nest

for the fish and frogs
regurgitated by their mother.

Under their armor of scales,

some jeweled lizards,
two males and a female,

the latter with the smaller head,

maintain their flirtations
in the sun that warms most.

But an unusual incident
seems to catch their attention.

Two lynx cubs play,
watched by their mother.

At two months,
they are at the so-called fighting stage,

a rebellious childhood

in which fierce fights
alternate with harmless games.

A second family approaches.

This mother is, in turn,
the daughter of the first lynx.

Between lynxes,

it is normal for mothers and daughters
to share the same breeding grounds.

Not always in good harmony.

Two of the cubs get into a fight,

and the mothers
come over to the rumpus.

Fights between adults are frequent.

Also between cubs.

But what is unusual is this clash

in which large and small fight,
each on their own.

From a bird's eye view,
a dehesa is an excellent hunting ground.

Separated trees,
which allow for very fast flight,

the ground covered
with pasture and brushwood,

where it is difficult to hide.

An Spanish imperial eagle
flies over its domains.

The eagle's nest

occupies the top of an isolated tree
in the middle of the plain.

They fear no one,
they don't have to hide from anyone.

With its craw full,
an eaglet waits.

We can perceive
from the size of its feet

the strength of the future hunter.

In full daylight,
when danger comes from above,

a rabbit is an easy prey.

But on this occasion
it manages to escape.

With its haughty flight
the eagle has discovered another prey.

A wood pigeon
at a watering hole.

Only one in ten attacks
ends in success.

The eagle communicates
the good news to its mate.

The imperial eagle's fortune

has not always matched
the grandeur of its titles.

As happened with the lynx,

the predator
was on the verge of extinction.

Another specialist in hunting rabbits,

it suffered from the collapse
of its main food source

and also from a long campaign
of poisoning in the countryside,

until its population
was reduced to a hundred pairs.

Fortunately, today the imperial eagles
reproduce in a sustainable way

and their silhouettes
are seen again on patrol flights

through the forests of the plain.

The fine season advances,

temperatures rise
and it's time to change clothes.

On ranches and farms
wool shearing begins.

Sheep aren't the only ones
to shed their skin at this time.

In the cork oak groves,
cork stripping has begun.

Another great bird of prey,
the short-toed snake-eagle,

has just arrived on the peninsula
from Africa.

The axe blades squeak
as they bite into the springy surface.

From early on,
in the cool of the morning,

a band of cork workers
are peeling a grove of cork oaks.

When they have finished,
the cork oaks will be left bare,

with the trunks and main branches
an intense orange color,

which will soon darken.

The tree now has
nine years ahead of it

to regenerate its cork bark,

to heal its wounds.

At the height of the mid-summer heat,
when the mountain is a blazing oven,

the short-toed snake-eagles
fly over their hunting ground.

A consummate expert
in the capture of ophidians,

this eagle has found the ideal way

to transport
its long, slippery prey.

In the nest,
on the top of a cork oak,

the only chick
waits for food to arrive.

The short-toed snake-eagles
always swallow their prey head first,

in the direction of the scales.

Given the chick's brief age,

the most likely thing
is that the father brings the food

and the mother prepares it.

In this kind of game of tug o' war,

every precaution is necessary.

The snake,
which comes perfectly rolled up,

emerges against the scales
and could damage the craw.

On occasions,
these average sized eagles,

which can weigh three kilos,

are capable of ingesting snakes
measuring up to a meter and a half.

The eagle's feet
reveal its specialty in hunting.

Long tarsi
protected from venomous bites

by a thick shell of scales,

and short fingers
which close with all their strength

on a prey
with very little diameter.

Meanwhile, the father
continues his low level hunting flight,

inch by inch,
waiting to spot some elusive movement.

The days of heat advance.

The pasture dries up
and the rivers drop, exhausted.

Standing out
against the yellow background,

the dark silhouettes
of this band of prowlers.

Evening falls and a family
of Egyptian mongooses,

the Iberian mongooses,
wake from their long midday siesta.

They are believed to be descended from
animals introduced by Arab colonizers,

given their skill
at hunting rodents and snakes.

Centuries later, with global warming,
it seems as if the Egyptian mongoose

is returning to the arid North African
territories from which it left.

It is, perhaps,
the herald of the bad times ahead.

The whole group
heads for the hunting ground.

They advance together,
always staying low,

body elongated,
ears reduced, snout pointed:

a hunter designed to remain hidden.

But at times
they have to rise up over the horizon.

And something has been discovered.

Pursued by all
and at all hours of the day,

the rodents in the country,
from running so much,

have ended up
opening narrow escape corridors.

But the victim's escape route
is also accessible to the hunter.

The game goes to the mongoose.

All for the family.

Change of guard.

The daytime inhabitants leave room
for the nocturnal prowlers.

A barn owl,

so confident in its skills
that it doesn't even hide,

white against the black night.

Its flapping wings make no sound.

Silence is the setting
where the owl hunts.

Hearing is its principal sense.

Its flight feathers,
lined with a smooth velvet,

beat noiselessly.

This silent flight

has the double purpose
of not alerting anyone

and of allowing it
to hear the slightest rustle,

any creak that betrays a prey.

The owl, literally,
sees through sounds.

The strange face of nocturnal raptors
is really an auricle,

a surface for amplifying

even the slightest murmur
and directing it to the ear.

And these mice
are making a lot of noise.

They are running, rashly,

along the same galleries
where the mongooses run.

This time, they have managed to escape.

Few animals show so clearly
what their intentions are.

The common scorpion
wears its lethal armor.

A field cricket is out of place,
far from its hole in the grass.

And it's on its way
to its downfall.

There is no possible appeal.

Trapped between two pincers,
the pedipalps,

the cricket receives a lethal final blow
that will paralyze it in seconds.

In the dead of night,
a long awaited event takes place.

The adult beetles
of the Cerambyx species

break the final barrier
that kept them enclosed

and they look out on a new darkness.

They have spent over three years
inside the trunk,

in galleries excavated in the wood,
and their hour has finally come.

Also called great capricorn beatles,

in recent decades
they have experienced an explosive growth

and even threaten
the good health of the dehesa.

So this tawny owl
is the best defender of the forest.

A squeal comes from the insect,

an alarm signal
that is already late.

The drilled trunk indicates
both the intensity of the plague

and the need for the existence
of hunters like the tawny owl.

Ill prepared for flight,

the males move barely
a few hundred meters

and climb the trunks
in search of females.

But the encounters
between them are frequent.

With the predictable result.

The fights last
until the cold light of dawn,

the first they see in their lives,

puts an end to the struggle.

On both sides of the border
between the Iberian countries,

the dehesa is a created forest,

a humanized landscape
built over the centuries.

And they have been its main architects.

The migrant merino sheep

that make the double journey
from north to south.

Although a few
are always left along the way.

Via bridges
and other obligatory passing places,

the flocks travel, year after year,
along the old seasonal migration routes.

Like a flood,
they look for river fords,

walk through History,

impose their transit rights
on the new flocks.

And back in the fallow lands and clearings
they have helped to build,

they pay their tribute.

Supported by the thermal currents
and the hot winds from the slope,

the vultures glide over the forests
in search of food.

Eurasian griffon and black vultures
form a network of observers

that prospect the dehesa inch by inch.

Someone more astute
has got in ahead of them.

The red fox defends its position,

but the vultures,
like parachutists in an invasion,

arrive in waves.

In this fight it has been made clear
that the great vulture,

a strict scavenger,
is not gifted for hunting.

It attacks
with its fearsome beak,

capable of ripping apart
the toughest tissues,

but its claws, open so as to alight
on motionless corpses,

can do nothing
against a living adversary.

And after the meal, wash time.

The vultures gather in bathing spots
hidden in the mountains,

secret places
that only they know.

The bath, with water or sand,

is essential for maintaining
their plumage in good condition.

Dirt and shaking displace the feathers
which lose efficiency.

And few birds are dirtier than vultures
after rolling around when scavenging.

In the bath,
the birds are giant sponges

that soak up
dozens of liters of water.

Already heavy
from the food they've ingested,

for hours the vultures
will be incapable of taking flight.

When the ablutions are finished,

they move on to the stage
of deparasitizing and drying.

It's hard to believe,

but after the vultures' bath
the water still harbors life.

Two dragonflies in full reproduction.

In a simultaneous action,

the female deposits the eggs
just beneath the surface.

As if propelled by a spring,
an Iberian water frog attacks.

Too late.

It aims well,
but with too much impetus.

Various investigations
show that amphibians' sense of sight

perceives movement very well,
but colors not so much.

Even so, a second attempt.

The spectacle
attracts a varied audience.

From the bank,
other individuals don't miss a thing.

Neither does this common buzzard.

As a hunter,
the buzzard's surprise factor fails.

Neither of the contenders
is in its environment:

a frog out of the water
is as clumsy as a raptor out of the wind.

The days grow shorter,

the temperature drops.

It's the autumn red deer rut.

During these days

the deer abandon the protection
of the thickly wooded areas

and come out to the clearings.

The hoarse, wild bellows of males on heat
come from every corner of the forests.

The females gather in herds

and watch the exhibitions
of the contenders.

One of them aims for total control.

It runs from one side to the other,
it answers any challenge.

The hoarse, resounding bellows echo
next to the banging

of those who instead of arguing loudly
prefer to argue with head butts.

Like a sheepdog,

the stag pursues
the deer who try to get away

by means of an enveloping movement from
the opposite side to the rest of the herd.

Day after day,
the tension takes its toll.

The large males lose their strength,

their authority
is constantly questioned.

The fights become worse.

The horns are designed
to stop attacks, to divert blows.

But the contenders' necks
are covered with scars.

Injuries, broken horns
and a single victor.

Another rumbling noise
travels through the dehesa,

but this, like an earthquake,
comes from under the ground.

A combined attack
from various fronts

is seriously threatening these forests.

Overall, and imprecisely,

it receives the descriptive name
of "la seca" (the dryness).

We have already seen these holes
in the trunks of holm oaks and cork oaks.

These are the galleries excavated by
the larvae of the cerambyx.

Each one of them eats,
on average,

some 10 grams of wood a month.

They spend three years here
and up to forty can coincide in one trunk.

Associated in normal conditions

with old or weakened trees,

these insects fulfill a function

in the natural regeneration
of the forest.

But now they have become a plague,

their number
is increasing exponentially

and as a result
they weaken the trunk.

But that is only
a part of the problem.

For the trees weakened in this way

the real mortal enemy
is lurking underground.

Holm oaks and cork oaks
suffer from the action of the fungus

"Phytophthora cinnamomi”,

considered one of the most destructive
plant pathogens in the world.

The fungus settles in the roots

and prevents the absorption
of water and nutrients.

The thirsty plants wither,
lose their leaves and end up succumbing.

And all of this in the new framework
created by the climate crisis,

the rise in temperatures
and the increasingly longer droughts,

along with the compaction of the soil
due to an excess stocking rate.

Rather than an iliness,
"la seca” is a syndrome,

a silent death
that seriously threatens

the continuity of the dehesas
in the medium term.

But life goes on.

The sweet aroma
of this lentisk attracts wasps,

which in turn
draw the attention of this mantis,

one of the most formidable hunters
in the dehesa.

Dressed to kill,
the mantis follows its prey with its eyes.

When stalking,
the mantis act with lightning speed.

The attack is instantaneous,

it lasts less than a tenth of a second.

Like so many other hunters,

the mantis adopt a camouflage coloring.

A male meets with a receptive female.

A little hesitation
after the landing

and the courtship begins.

The male soon finds the way

and it all takes place
with a tense tranquility.

A dangerous adventure, really,

because the females are cannibals.

The male has made a mistake in relaxing,

because she is bigger
and, in addition,

she needs an extra intake of food
to develop the eggs.

And from above,
the female has won the position.

So much stealth in the approach
should raise suspicions.

The male is on guard
but waits for a new opportunity.

Food and sex.

Two interests
that overlap brutally

in one of every four encounters
between mantis.

After the fierce heat
and the prolonged summer drought,

the first rain fronts
irrigate the land generously.

The gullies,
streams and creeks reappear.

The water
retraces the map of the dehesa.

This is when we clearly understand

the origin and significance
of these forests.

Dehesa comes from "defesa”,

a Latin word that describes
winter pasture lands reserved,

"defended", for the flocks.

With the ground soaked,
the mushroom season opens.

The spores from the mushroom caps

spread the aroma of the forest
through the air.

The days pass,
the cold is approaching

and on the horizon
there are signs of bad weather.

It is the period of the "montanera”,

when holm oaks and cork oaks
throw their fruits on the ground...

from where they are scooped up.

With the fall of the acorn,

herds of Iberian pigs
will graze freely in the dehesas.

This animal is a specialist
in transforming acorn into meat.

Each pig can eat
up to 12 kilos a day,

mixed with another
four or five of grass.

Such high productivity
makes the Iberian pig

one of the financial mainstays
of these forests,

created and maintained
for the production of livestock.

The days are short now
and the cold is advancing.

The common cranes arrive.

They come from the north of Europe

and as they fly over the dehesa
they announce the winter.

Many birds, solitary until now,

gather together in great multitudes
to cope better with the cold months.

A vast flock of spotless starlings
gather every evening.

We don't know who guides them,

but the orders are transmitted
with the speed of an electric discharge.

No one collides with anyone.

In the reddish light of dusk,

the cranes head for the place
where they will spend the night.

Deeply distrustful,

they seek out a place to sleep
that combines certain conditions:

a wet area, a lagoon, a reservoir,

or the muddy banks of a river;

always separated from any danger
that might prowl on dry land.

The cranes are right
to take refuge in the water,

because in the darkness
many eyes are watching.

A genet travels its hunting ground.

It meets with a garden dormouse.

Not all dormice sleep in winter.

At least not every year.

The old woodland, with trunks
full of holes and fallen bark,

is a labyrinth for this variation
on the game of cat and mouse.

With different participants,

the same drama
is played out time and again.

The game is now played
between a wood rat

and an eagle owl.

Like the Iberian lynx,

the eagle owl
also breaks up the lines of its head

with a couple of brushes.

They are just feathers,
birds don't have ears,

and we have already seen
how nocturnal raptors

perceive sound
on their facial disc.

Wings full of stealth,

a trail of silence
disappears in the darkness.

The owl has carried out its task.

Without the pressure
from these predators,

the rats would multiply endlessly

and would be a serious problem
for balance in the dehesa.

At dawn
the cranes shake off the night.

Before the sun rises,

at those hours when a faint mist
rises off the sheets of water,

the first ones to set off
drag small groups after them,

in a particular direction.

They won't fly very far.

With the sun now warming the land
and dissipating the mist,

the cranes
spread out over the surroundings.

They explore the fields of acorns,

but the oaks
mature in a staggered way,

so the flocks wander
until they find a good feeding ground.

They seek out the fruits
left behind by the pigs,

they peck at the ground
and, in their way,

also do the agricultural work
necessary to keep the dehesa cleared.

The cranes travel in families and,
recently arrived on the peninsula,

the adults, with black throats,
still stay with the young,

with pale grey throats and still
without the characteristic red patch.

Trumpetings of alarm
and a discreet withdrawal.

Many pairs of eyes
watch the four corners of the forest.

This lynx has no intention
of going unnoticed.

Over a century ago, the common cranes
bred in small numbers in Iberia.

Now they only come here to winter

but, unlike the general tendency in birds,

the populations of these long-legged
creatures have multiplied by ten

in the last half century.

Again the strings of cranes
mark the lines of the horizon in the sky.

The Iberian lynx doesn't need to hide.
His meal isn't going to escape.

The members of the family
gather around.

A son from last spring.

And his mother.

The young lynx maintains a certain
relationship with his father,

from whom he hopes to learn
the secrets of hunting.

Although, on this occasion,
there is little to learn.

Between adults,
relations are more distant.

The lynxes constantly exchange
olfactory signals:

of defiance...

or of contact and recognition
between the mother and her son.

The large male tolerates their presence

but won't allow them to eat
until he finishes.

A primitive urge leads the lynx
to bury the remains of the body,

to mark his ownership
with his smell.

In general
the Iberian lynx don't eat carrion.

They are predators
highly specialized in catching rabbits.

But the viral diseases

which have been decimating
rabbit populations for decades

force the felines to look for
alternative sources of food.

Sated, with the food covered,
the lynx walks off,

but every few inches
he leaves his smell,

the lynx's sign,

before disappearing again
into the undergrowth.

He crosses the clearing calmly,

he exhibits himself.

In his territory
he has no enemies,

in natural conditions
nothing threatens him.

The Iberian lynx's excess of confidence
came close to causing their extinction.

Some high pitched shouts
travel along the river.

Any time of the year
is good for otters to mate.

Like eternal adolescents,
otters play ceaselessly.

Not a single drop of water
wets their skin.

The outer layer of fur
traps the air

and creates a kind of insulation,
like a neoprene suit,

and the inner layer is so thick
that the water never gets through it.

Their vision underwater
is better than in the exterior.

Over short distances, or at night,

the whiskers or vibrissae on their snouts
open up a tactile world to them.

Even while playing,
they continue to mark their territory.

The sand smells of otter.

The otter is a mustelid,

a carnivore
of the family of martens and weasels.

A hunter modeled by water,

which has smoothed its shape,
stylized its profile

and increased the flexibility
of its muscles.

The result
is an animal agile on land,

but which in the river
moves like the waves.

With their eyes, ears and muzzle
on the surface

they swim at periscope depth.

And although they can row
with their padded paws,

the main impulse

comes from the undulatory movements
of the body and tail.

Rather than swimming, otters flow.

The Iberian dehesas
have told us many stories.

Some about struggle,

others about cunning,
deception and concealment.

Since time immemorial,

flocks and herds have come here
following routes already old,

to occupy the open forest
that grew up from a pact

between nature and human beings.

But that pact is in danger now.

A threat that can no longer be ignored
is looming over the dehesas.

Plagues and global warming

could transform the extensive groves
of trees into fields of scrubland

or, even worse, open the gates
to the advance of the desert.

A landscape will exist
while there are eyes to contemplate it.

Meanwhile, every year
the wings of the recent arrivals

plow through the skies and new litters
appear at the openings of lairs.

It depends on us that,
every time a rabbit jumps,

a lynx runs after it,

that the tapestry of life
never weakens,

and that the whisper of the wind

brings us more stories
that will extend,

year after year,

the tale of the dehesa.

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